“In another era, Minaj’s sexuality, expressed semi-parodically…might have given feminists pause”

In another era, Minaj’s sexuality, expressed semi-parodically — pretending she’s a Barbie doll; glorifying women dressed as prostitutes and set in red-light-district windows — might have given feminists pause. But in the 2010s, we have entered a different world in pop culture, one in which sexual repression is perceived as burdensome and perhaps even an inability to holistically integrate the body and self. Young people are identifying and exploring formerly unknown, or at least unlabeled, frontiers of sexuality and gender. And the fact that Minaj is in charge of her own objectification (describing her vagina with more words than I thought existed, and then amplifying its power by rhyming those words), as well as her own monetization (overt product placement in videos is a hallmark) has led most feminist voices to applaud her. But the writer Bell Hooks remains unimpressed, saying of ‘‘Anaconda’’ at a New School panel titled ‘‘Whose Booty Is This?’’: ‘‘This [expletive] is boring. What does it mean? Is there something that I’m missing that’s happening here?’’

‘‘The frequency that Nicki works on is not the easiest frequency for us to wrestle with, because it’s about autonomy, and who has it, and whether we can actually tell the difference between self-objectification and self-gratification,’’ says Treva B. Lindsey, an assistant professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies at the Ohio State University, continuing: ‘‘Do we even know what an autonomous female looks like in pop culture? What does control even mean in such a corporatized mass-media space?’’

Vanessa Grigoriadis, “The Passion of Nicki Minaj”, The New York Times Magazine (11 October 2015), 59.